It was my first trip ever to Darjeeling. One of the best hillstations of the country, no wonder it’s called ‘The Queen of Hillstations’ After a tiring 36 hours of train ride in one of the worst trains that I ever sat into, my this journey was certainly one of the worst ever if you consider the quality of the travel, the amount of time spent in the train and the worst toilet arrangements. Started from Old Delhi, possibly one of the stinkiest stations in our country to the North East of India towards New Jalpaiguri. Sad to say that, but Old Delhi station did need improvement and has been for ages. To add to that, I was sitting in Mahananda Express. Before I boarded, my fellow passengers who welecomed me with a grin, looking at my backpack and fancying me for a ‘so called adventure traveler’ had already warned me cheekily that this train will reach NJP next year. A couple of them were regular travelers.
But I told them smilingly at that time that it doesn’t matter as long as I reach the destination… And after all I always keep telling everyone now don’t I, ‘It’s all about the journey and not the destination.’ So yes, they were right, being regular travelers and I was wrong this time around… I did more than a few times think about the destination and when we possibly would reach there… Frustrated at times, toilets didn’t have water, food wasn’t that good, a lot of time was spent sitting on top reading or just lazying around…
After arduous and laborious journey of 36 hours, we managed to reach, but we reached at midnight. Which meant, the hopes of the jeep that we had to take from New Jalpaiguri to go to Darjeeling was as thin as ray of light… Maybe even slimmer. So a few of us decided to head to a lodge, split the cost and move next day…
While we didn’t enjoy one bit of our journey and a couple of them were cribbing about the whole problem we went through, there wasn’t much we could do. All we did was enjoy the dinner, which by the way was a saving grace. ‘All you can eat’ for a paltry 40 bucks per plate… We were so impressed that the next day, when we decide to set for Darjeeling we had breakfast there again, though we were disappointed that breakfast wasn’t eat all you can. After all, every day isn’t a Sunday and of course, they also need to do business to serve people like us.
Anyways, now comes the most interesting part of the story. After all the trouble we had gone through I decided to take a jeep to Darjeeling while the fellow passengers headed in another direction taking a bus. I was waiting in the Jeep when I met this lean and atheltic guy. Wearing an olive green, track suit jacket on top of khaki pants he wore green spotted military canvas streakers.. Looking at his outfit I could immediately figure out that he most certainly was from the Army. Yes a lot of times, there are people who wear such outfits or caps for décor, but looking at his spic and span outfit and the way he carried himself, my mind was sure that he was a defense personnel.
While we both waited for the driver to get in more people in the jeep, I started talking to him. He introduced himself to me with a smile on his face. Very down to earth and most certainly looked like someone who was content with his life. He told me his name, Bishal Singh, from Section 2 IC of the Indian Army. He said that with a hint of pride gleaming in his eyes.
“Aap kahaan posted ho?,” Where are you posted I asked him, trying to find out
“Kargil, No Man’s Land near the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir” he said. One of the dangerous terrains, facing war threats day in and day out. He lived life by the minute, hour and days…
“Now I’m on a leave, going to meet my family in Darjeeling.”
“Nice.” I said with a smile. It must always be a great feeling for soldiers to get such leaves. He had taken a leave after two years and it showed with the smile he had on his face.
“I can’t imagine how difficult it would be.” I said in Hindi…
He just smiled.
Many of you might have seen the ‘Shiachen glacier’ in a national anthem played in one of the theatres in the country. Yes, the Bharatabala productions of national anthem that brings goosebumps to your entire body. Bishal, told me that he was posted there a few years back. He told me about the stories of how they just have to patrol for a few hours, cook their own food, exercise in that biting cold, cook for others, do rounds of the entire area and scout for any dangers if emminent. He also shared with me how hard it is to even find anyone to talk to. How hard it is to even breathe, due to the freezing below 0 degrees centigrades. But now, he was happy that he got time off to visit his parents and his brother in Darjeeling. At the end of the conversation, everything just made sense to me. The problems that we faced were like a miniscule drop of water from the very ice that surrounded his tents for more than 6 months. Suddenly it all made sense to me. I was awe inspired by the amount of overwhelming sense of appreciation I had now for life.
Here I was cribbing about a 36 hour journey and the pitfalls of not having water to clean myself while there was the Pride of the nation, who took great pains to protect us from those very militants who made a difference to my breath and my life… I truly Salute the Soldier who makes our lives worth living each and every moment of the day! Jai Hind! What do you think?